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Effective Social Media Strategy

So you’ve decided to go all in on social. Now what?

Sure, you’ve had your neglected Facebook page and that Twitter account you let get overgrown with weeds, but you’ve realized that social media provides a valuable new avenue for you to reach your existing customers and generate new ones. If only you knew where to begin.

Well, fear not, civilian. Because building a social media strategy that really works isn’t difficult. It’s just a matter of knowing what you need, and focusing there.

1) Set your goals

The first thing you need to do before creating your strategy is figure out what you want it to accomplish – and that can be harder than it looks. Because at the end of the day, it’s not always 100% clear what you should want it to accomplish. Social media tools are by definition amorphous things that are ultimately only what their users make of them – they’re redefined slightly every time someone signs up.

So focus on concrete goals that align with your larger, overall marketing efforts. What is it you’re after? Brand awareness? More conversions? Thought leadership? Your social media strategy needs to support those efforts – which means you need to set up relevant goals that help get you there. The metrics you’re after will change depending on your larger orientation; if you’re trying to build up your marketing audience, metrics like retweets and follows are vital; if you’re after increasing conversions, you’ll want to see a higher click-thru rate to your website.

Focus on using the SMART framework, creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

If your goal meets every one of those requirements, it’s a reasonable goal to seek. Instead of “we want more sales,” you can say “we want to increase our conversions from social media by 15% by the end of the next quarter.”

2) Know your audience

So now that you have a goal, the question is who are you after. Your audience affects how you communicate; different groups have different problems, needs, desires, and social destinations, and you need to make sure you’re tailoring your message to the people you’re after. And the same brand can have different audiences depending on the medium; Facebook tends to skew older than Instagram, for example, and the same brand selling the same service or product will use each platform differently depending on who they’re trying to talk to.

3) Build a plan

Don’t just dive in; step back a second and think. Social media may thrive on spontaneity, but for a brand or business, you need to think through your posts so you can fine-tune your messaging, develop your media assets, and strategize your links (including developing message-matched landing pages). Build a spreadsheet detailing every post on every platform well in advance, accounting for any holidays or special events that might come up or affect your messaging. This helps you align your messaging with your larger marketing efforts in both a big picture and a nitty-gritty sort of way.

Your content plan needs to address the following points:

  • What types of content you want to promote
  • How frequently you post
  • Who your audience is for each message
  • Who’s doing the back-end content creation
  • What the platform you’re promoting on will be

This lets you schedule everything out in advance, freeing up your social team to both develop new content and to respond to users on the fly.

4) Keep it active

Be sure you’ve got the resources in place to keep your social media accounts active. Dead social accounts don’t do anybody any good, and periodic, desultory posting is an active detriment. Meanwhile, even an active account that doesn’t actually respond to anybody is almost as bad; it makes it plain that you aren’t listening, that you don’t intend to listen, and that your customers are shouting into the wind. After all, this isn’t a one-way publishing platform you can set and forget; it’s social media, and that means “communication.”

People are quick to hit the Twitters when they have an issue – quicker than they are to pick up the phone. And unaddressed issues just sit there in plain sight, advertising to all that you aren’t communicative on platforms designed for communication. At best it makes you look woefully uninformed. At worst, it makes you look actively callous. Keep on top of your accounts.

5) Keep it personal

Nobody wants to talk to a faceless corporation. Owning social means being social, and that means giving your social team the freedom to actually engage with and communicate with the people they encounter online. The best social accounts are the ones that inform, engage, and connect; sometimes that means joking, playing, empathizing – and not just following the script.

Don’t worry so much about making sure every word is vetted; it might make you feel a little more secure, but it demolishes most of the real benefits a social account is able to offer in terms of building brand loyalty and effective brand communication; it stunts your strategy, and leaves it unable to really grow on its own. Social is powerful when you let it be.

This is not to say anything goes; firm guidelines about language, usage, and acceptability need to be developed to keep communication consistent and on-brand. So it’s a delicate line you need to tread -- but done well, it elevates your social platforms into real assets.